Curt Schilling has to be in the Hall of Fame.
I write that without any hesitation, reservation or research. I don't need to look at his stats. I know what he's done.
The Hall of Fame should be about impact, not statistics. Numbers are nice, but they don't necessarily make the player.
Some Hall of Fame cases are being built on a pile of numbers now, and I can see how in rare cases a player's career can be re-evaluated by dissecting the latest data. But in general, I think that's a funny way to get into Cooperstown. Conversely, Schilling is maybe the perfect example of a pitcher who had great impact but whose career regular-year numbers are merely excellent but not among the all-time best.
The Hall of Fame should be for players who did great things, staged big moments and affected things the way Schilling did.
Like him or hate (and I can't say I fall into the former category there, as I consider him a cyber and in-person annoyance), Schilling had a tremendous impact on most games he pitched, and on the game itself. He was a star who pitched his team into four World Series, and to three titles. In 2001 and 2004 in particular, it was his pitching that made the difference.
I ran into Schilling's former Phillies teammate Dave Hollins the day Schilling announced his retirement, and after one of us joked about whether Schilling would follow through on his announcement or stage some dramatic comeback, Hollins offered the long-held view of Schilling, but in a nicer way. "You love to have him on your side every fifth day,'' Hollins said.
Former Phillies GM Ed Wade expressed a variation of that statement (only said much harsher) many years ago. It went something along the lines of, "He was a horse once every five days and a horse's ass the other four days.''
Although I never spent four consecutive days with Schilling, I don't doubt that. He always came off as a guy who thought he was an expert in everything simply because he had more pitching talent than just about anyone else. He still blows hard on his 38Pitches, a Web site I religiously avoid.
Anyway, Schilling still gets credit for that fifth day, not demerits for the other four. Schilling was often great on that fifth day, and he was almost always great when it mattered most.
There are people who believe that he played the famed "bloody sock'' game for all it was worth, that he purposely made it look good, or at least did nothing to stem the flow of blood. I wouldn't put much past Schilling, but I am convinced that he was hurt, and that he was bleeding, and that he should get credit for pitching heroically that day, for beating the Yankees and the jinx, and for helping the Red Sox win the World Series for the first time in 86 years.
He called a championship for Boston -- saying that was his intention the moment the Diamondbacks traded him there -- then he delivered. That's almost Namath-like. Joe Namath's career football numbers aren't so perfect, either, and nobody doubted his Hall of Fame qualifications. Championships are what it's all about, and Schilling played as great a role in winning championships as just about any player of his generation except Mariano Rivera.
That Schilling won "only'' 216 games shouldn't be counted against him. That he had "only'' maybe seven or eight great seasons shouldn't either. If it's about numbers, it shouldn't only be about total numbers. He had three 300-strikeout seasons, three 20-win seasons. He struck 3,116 batters while only walking 711.
He had all-time stuff. And as much as I hate to admit this, he had all-time heart. He was 10-2 with a 2.23 ERA in the postseason. He and Randy Johnson were the two biggest keys to the Diamondbacks winning the thrilling 2001 World Series, and he and Manny Ramirez were the keys to the Red Sox winning the historic 2004 Series.
It's safe to say Schilling is about the last person I'd want to spend any appreciable time with. But if I had a game on the line I had to win, and if Sandy Koufax wasn't available that day, I'd give John Smoltz or Schilling the ball.
There is plenty of offensive firepower in the San Francisco Giants clubhouse. Or there was on the day I visited. Willie Mays was sitting at a table in the clubhouse, Willie McCovey was resting in the dugout, and Will Clark was chatting with current players. The Giants' starting pitching looks so good, it's truly a shame they don't have at least one active player anywhere near as good as any of those guys in their prime.
Among active players, Manny Ramirez would have made a nice addition to the Giants. He could have replicated the years of Barry Bonds, with comparable productivity, less controversy and more good cheer.
"I think if the Giants signed Manny, they would be the frontrunner in that division,'' one competing GM said.
But Giants people approached the Ramirez negotiations as an outsider only prepared to pounce should the negotiations between Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and agent Scott Boras blow up. That came close to happening after McCourt blew a gasket a time or two. However, when Manny and the Dodgers finally agreed for $45 million over two years, with the opt-out clause Ramirez sought, the Giants were left with a clubhouse of really aging superstar hitters (the retired guys, as opposed to the old guys they trotted out there in recent years), decent veterans and hopeful prospects.
The Giants looks like a half a team in some respects. Their starting pitching looks dynamic, but their offense could easily come up limp again. There's a lot of talk about how great the Giants' pitching might be, especially with 45-year-old Randy Johnson looking good in camp. But as one competing GM said, "Exactly how many games can you win, 1-0?''
They might have to win a few.
Even though Mays, McCovey and (to a lesser degree) Clark are only reminders of past offensive prowess, and Ramirez went back to the Dodgers, there's still a lot more optimism in Giants camp than last year
"I think we'll put more runs on the board more consistently,'' manager Bruce Bochy said.
Bochy cites several very reasonable factors for why he believes this, ranging from the offensively strong Edgar Renteria taking over at shortstop for the aging Omar Vizquel, to newcomers Pablo Sandoval and Travis Ishikawa having a shot to improve the black holes that were third base and first base last year to the hoped-for emergence of Fred Lewis.
They will be better. However, it's still hard to imagine an offense where the Nos. 3 and 4 hitters are Lewis and Bengie Molina, who's better known for his slow feet than his quick bat (though his bat isn't bad)
The Giants should feel somewhat better about things. But if they wanted a realistic chance to beat the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, they should have gone for Manny.
One thing I like about the Giants' Molina is his positive attitude. Here's how he recently summarized that very nice -- but not perfect -- Giants starting rotation:
Tim Lincecum: "Amazing.''
Matt Cain: "Feeling great, hitting his spots.''
Randy Johnson: "Outstanding.''
Jonathan Sanchez: "Awesome ... very, very good.''
Barry Zito: "Surprising ... looks ready to go.''
As a group, they are very good. And they're going to have to be.
Jeff Moorad is about to be approved as the Padres' managing partner, and not a moment too soon. Moorad, who resurrected his reputation as Diamondbacks partner, has a lot of work to do there.
Outgoing owner John Moores and his debilitating divorce have caused the team to become an utter mess. Competing GMs who saw them this spring said they look even more awful than you'd expect (though missing WBC participants Jake Peavy, Heath Bell and Adrian Gonzalez didn't help). GM Kevin Towers has been scanning the waiver wires to pick up players who have a chance to contribute.
"A work in progress'' is what one competing executive charitably calls them.
• Top Orioles catching prospect Matt Wieters will be sent to the minors, but several scouts said he is definitely ready to help them now. Baseball people believe the Orioles "want to push back his clock'' by demoting him, meaning he'd be eligible for arbitration and free agency a year later. "It makes sense because there's no way they're a contender,'' one club executive said.
• The Rays' decision to send down David Price was done to be cautious but also to save prospects Jeff Niemann and Jason Hammel, who are out of options.
• The Cardinals (16-7) are having a very nice spring, and it doesn't hurt that Chris Carpenter is looking promising in his comeback effort. Speaking about his importance, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said, "On and off the field, he's very special.''
• La Russa doesn't seem especially uncomfortable without a set closer. "We've got a lot of guys ... they're good.''
• As he has in the past when his contract is about to expire, La Russa is saying nothing about his desire to stay beyond mentioning that both the Cardinals and he will evaluate things at the end of the season.
• Cliff Lee was the best pitcher on the planet last year, and lately he looks like one of the worst. It's hard to judge pitchers in Arizona, but that 12.34 ERA just doesn't look great for the Cy Young winner.
• The Indians' call to name poised youngster Scott Lewis as their fifth starter may work. Lewis was 4-0 at the end of last year. Last year Lee started out as the No. 5 starter, and that worked out pretty good.
• Travis Hafner, who's seen as a key to the Indians, is struggling at .189, but an Indians person says he's "making strides.''
• The White Sox did the right thing sending top prospect Gordon Beckham to Double-A. Speedy Chris Getz, who'll win the second-base job, looks like he's going to be an interesting player.
• No surprise that Xavier Nady, who hit .305 between the Pirates and Yankees last year, beat out Nick Swisher, who hit .219 and found his way to the White Sox bench, for the Yankees right field job.
• Yankees GM Brian Cashman said the Yankees' center field answer is coming from within, which means no Mike Cameron. "Our center fielder is in camp,'' is the way Cashman put it. Speedy Brett Gardner is going to win the job, other club sources say. FoxSports.com says they are open to trading Melky Cabrera, which makes sense. The White Sox, who sent Swisher to the Yankees and whose GM Ken Williams is very close to Cashman, could use a center fielder.
• Rick Porcello, 20, looks like a shoo-in to make the Tigers rotation. According to scouts, he has a 95-to-96 mph fastball and decent breaking stuff. It's a big jump from Class A, but one scout said, "He should be pitching against big leaguers now.''
• Dontrelle Willis, who's struggling again this spring, will either be demoted by the Tigers, or released. He has to give his approval to be demoted, and may still need to be convinced it's for the best.
• Freddy Garcia, a proud man, had to be talked into starting in the minors. Some scouts don't see it from Garcia yet, but I'd still consider this step part of his return from shoulder surgery.
• Maybe I'm from the old school, but I have to question Jose Tabata, 20, being married to a 43-year-old woman, much less a 43-year-old woman with a criminal record who's now being questioned about a baby-snatching incident. Tabata, acquired last summer from the Yankees, isn't involved according to the police and Pirates president Frank Coonelly. But maybe Tabata should be considering his own trade.
• Bud Selig is right that Team USA could have been better.
• The Mets, Mariners and Tigers bought into the WBC, but some teams, like the Cubs, showed no interest. Ted Lilly was about the only Cubs star to participate, as Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Alfonso Soriano and Derrek Lee sat out the WBC. Lee said he felt like he was being pressured by MLB to play, but his reticence might have had something to do with his awful spring (he was below the Mendoza line at the time). Considering the Cubs' history of bad luck, it's hard to blame them for their caution.
• Padres club president Sandy Alderson was up for the job of Pac-10 commissioner, but Larry Scott, who's chairman and CEO of the Women's Tennis Association, was hired instead. In any case, Alderson has told people he is planning to leave the team to Moorad. Perhaps MLB should re-hire Alderson, who did a terrific job in that office.
• As a South Florida resident, I am disgusted that a new baseball park was approved in an economy where the ocean is lined with empty condos. But I have to give credit to the Marlins for somehow getting the darned thing approved.
• My condolences to Martha Richman, the wife of ex-Yankees and Mets executive Arthur Richman, a colorful character who had the good sense to 1) leave the sports writing profession to become a baseball executive in 1963, and 2) whisper to George Steinbrenner that Joe Torre would make a fine choice as Yankees manager. Richman also mentioned La Russa and Davey Johnson at the time, but Torre, who was hired after interviews with Joe Molloy and Stick Michael, turned out to be a brilliant call even if the ending wasn't storybook.